The Department of Trade and Industry's Advanced Robotics Programme was first authorised in July 1985. The Programme has roots in the 1982 Versailles Economic Summit which identified AR as an area of technology with considerable promise for the future. An International AR programme was established after the Versailles Summit and the UK is an active participant The UK's national programme was established to bring together the resources of industrial, academic and research organisations in the UK to work towards an indigenous UK capability Both programmes concentrate on AR for hostile and extreme or unstructured environments as these are the areas which are expected to drive the development and commercial exploitation of AR. I shall be speaking on both the UK and the International Programme in this presentation, dealing first with the UK activities

Advanced Robotics has been defined by myself as

"The integration of enabling technologies and attributes embracing manipulators, mobility, sensors, computing and hierarchical control to result ultimately in a robot capable of autonomously complementing man's endeavours in unstructured and hostile environments."

Within the UK the Department set itself the following objectives-

  • to develop a greater awareness of a future market potential for AR

  • to encourage the close co-operation of Industry and academics to their mutual advantage for the development of AR

  • to avoid wasteful duplication of efforts through developments remaining within particular industry sectors

  • to assist the formulation of collaborative projects for each AR application area

  • to nurture the growth of an indigenous UK AR Industry

  • to foster international collaboration where deemed Appropriate

The Department has developed a threefold strategy to achieve these objectives.

  • the establishment of National Collaborative Groups (AR Groups) In the given application areas of tunnelling, nuclear, space, underwater, civil engineering & construction, fire fighting/rescue, medical & healthcare, domestic and agriculture. Each Group undertakes a Feasibility Study followed by a Definition Study and eventually a research and development project

  • the formulation of a national Advanced Robotics Research Centre (ARRC) capable of developing, evaluating and integrating the ingredient technologies of AR

  • supporting smaller scale projects for enabling technologies specifically as they apply to AR.

The programme was well under way when the Department of Enterprise White Paper was issued in January 1988. The Department's support for Advanced Technology now falls into 4 categories - LINK, EUREKA, National Collaborative Research Programmes, General Industrial Collaborative Projects The AR programme was cited. In the White Paper as an example of a National Collaborative Advanced Technology Programme. Since then all programmes have had to be reapproved by Ministers and with the exception of the support for single companies working on specific enabling technology projects, the entire AR Programme has been reapproved In principle Funds of £l2 Om have been approved by Ministers for the first five years of the UK programme. This approval will allow us to complete the Feasibility and Project Definition Stages in each application area and to commence the realisation of the Research and Development Projects. These budgets are for UK projects only and we estimate a substantial additional expenditure on AR EUREKA Projects such as the Advanced Underwater Robot (AUR) project.

The single company support which was available within the old SF

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